50th, but 50th what? It certainly isn’t a birthday! I’m way past that. I’ll be 68 this November.
To attach some context, as of today I have been on estrogen for one year. I’ve also luckily been able to stay married to my wife of 43 years. The 50th I speak of is my high school reunion. It occurred this past weekend, two states and many cities away from where I now live.
Because I like to golf and we golfed 10 years ago at my reunion, (me fully male,) I volunteered to help arrange this year’s round. Prior to, or contemporaneous to, volunteering, I reestablished contact with one of the first friends I had in high school. At our 40th reunion, I learned he was gay. I also discovered he worked as a counselor, and so I thought, what better person to reestablish a friendship with than a gay counselor? He was more than willing to reestablish the friendship and offer advice related to my transition.
We even decided that he would take me as his date to the reunion! I had the thought that everyone, or at least some of our classmates, would wonder if he went straight, as I was hoping they wouldn’t recognize me. My friend asked me if I knew how not to be the lead when dancing, as a girl. I would have to learn, and I did. I got in my practice at two civil war dance reenactments, something I’ve recently started doing (I’ll try downloading a picture). The first time I inadvertently but spontaneously took up the male positions. Being a quick learner, I easily took the female role the second time. The only time I led was when I taught a young Union soldier how to dance the waltz.
Well, reunion time was nearing and only a few of my classmates knew about me. I had relied upon my reunited friend for guidance on whom it would be safe to tell. I got word from his sister that he had suddenly died. Being human and a doctor, I knew how death can take us from this world at any moment, so excuse me if this sounds odd, but I accepted it, with little distress as we had reestablished this connection after 50 years.
One of our activities at the reunion was bowling, which he had the responsibility of setting up. We dedicated the event to him and sent helium balloons to the heavens, even one with a happy face in his honor. I came up with a new idea. The girls at my Catholic high school wore uniforms, so I searched Amazon and other sites for similar attire, a tartan green plaid skirt, a white blouse, green cable-knit knee socks, and loafers, even green earrings. “Great plan,” I thought, and being sure to get some glances, I planned to wear it to the homecoming football game. By the time I arrived, the game was half over, and I only ran into three classmates, the ones who knew I was transitioning. The effect I was hoping for certainly didn’t materialize!
To backtrack a bit, I want to share that I wavered whether to surprise or reveal myself prior to the event. The wavering persisted until about a week before. I wasn’t sure which way was best for a nondisruptive revelation. My final decision was to reveal it beforehand. The unfortunate thing was that I only had twelve email addresses. I received four responses, each of which was positive and supportive.
The morning after the football game, I’m walking into the golf event thinking no one knows. It was only a small group of ten, and I was the only girl. I was wearing my green skort and light green golf top, green being one of the school’s colors. I wore bee-dangle earrings and a bit of makeup. No one was derogatory, and they treated me very friendly. I had wondered how teams were going to be picked, wondering if anyone would want me on their team, but we picked cards, teammates being those who had the same face card. Wouldn’t you know, I picked the queen!
Since we only had three to a team, I unfortunately rode alone, but I truly didn’t get the impression it was my teammates being uncomfortable in my presence. I could understand if they were though, as I think it could be a natural tendency. Besides somehow losing my swing and rarely finding it, I shot a 91 from the same tees as all hit from. While playing, we told stories, learned about family, told jokes, and had a good time. Inevitably, we had a conversation about my transitioning, and it was there or later that night I told someone in joking that I thought it was because I had been exposed to too many “girl germs” as a child! We talked about our thoughts about children and their appropriate age or maturity to make a conscious decision about transitioning. Unsurprisingly, we were not in full agreement but listened to each other attentively and calmly.
The evening was heavenly. There were a couple of girls who did not recognize me at all. Mind you, after so long, it is often difficult to recognize individuals even when they don’t transition. I didn’t recognize quite a few classmates and stuck my foot in my mouth at least once. One guy who didn’t recognize me told me I looked beautiful after appearing stunned when I revealed myself. You can’t believe how that made me feel! One girl came up to me after I said hi to her. I could see she didn’t recognize me as she looked quizzically at me, and she then searched out my name tag. We all wore them to help us all out. She looked at it and still gave me a quizzical look. True, my first name had been changed, but it was only a slightly different change in the spelling of my first name, from Jerry to Jeri. She asked as she continued to look at my face, is that your maiden name? I finally told her. I could tell she was astounded, and we continued pleasant conversation for some time until we had to congregate for a class picture.
There were so many more wonderful moments with hugs and embraces, not only from girls but from a couple of guys as well. One more encounter I feel a need to mention. One girl sat down next to me and told me she had been reluctant to come, not coming to the prior reunion because she had gained a lot of weight and was self-conscious. When, through the grapevine…my concern about only twelve email addresses extinguished…she heard the news of me, she had thrown concern of her weight out the window. If I could show up and reveal myself, she realized, what was she really afraid of? I’m very happy, me who realizes there are so many more people out there who are more accepting than you can imagine. She overcame her fear, at least partially due to me, and that made me immensely happy.
Last, I want to tell you I was on an emotional high on my six-hour drive home and throughout the next day!!!!! Life is astounding. Life is revealing. Life can be and is full of love!